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Shrinking the LTE Small Cell and Wi-Fi Wireless Backhaul Footprint (or how to delight an urban planner)

Shrinking the LTE small cell
Posted 11/19/2015 by Neil Bullock

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Similar to real estate investment, the key to success in LTE small cell and Wi-Fi access point positioning is location, location and location! To get the greatest return on investment, mobile phone operators and Wi-Fi service providers must conduct a careful analysis of their network coverage and capacity to identify the best equipment placement location. Once a perfect deployment location is identified, the operators are faced with additional challenges, including backhaul and urban planning.

The city planning department’s main concern is the operational impact on the city during the installation process and the environmental impact of the installed devices. The localized coverage area of LTE small cells and Wi-Fi access points implies that they must be deployed in much greater numbers than classic macrocell towers. It is therefore important that each node is minimally invasive to the community, both during installation and in operation.

The good news is that we have an answer that addresses both backhaul and urban planning concerns. SiBEAM’s 60 GHz bream-steering technology offers a flexible, easy to install, gigabit capacity wireless backhaul option that liberates carriers from the cost and complexity of fiber deployment and fundamentally improves the prospects for small cell implementation from an urban planning perspective.

Let’s explore the ideal installation process from a carrier perspective. It should be fast, to minimize disruption during installation; it should be cheap, so that it can be scaled to many installations; it should be dynamic, so that little or no maintenance is required; and it should be adaptive, so that changes to the network do not require reinstallation. These are all characteristics of SiBEAM’s electronic beam-steering technology.

Nodes that implement our technology require only a rough alignment and can be installed quickly by a semi-skilled utility or municipal worker. A link can then be established between that node and other nodes in the network without manual intervention, and maintained even under changing environmental conditions or network reorganization. By contrast, in a conventional 60 GHz installation, skilled technicians with specialized tools are required at both ends of the link in order to perform fine alignment. This is time consuming and therefore costly during both the installation and maintenance due to environmental or network changes.

What about the environmental impact? The urban planner is primarily concerned with the impact of the small cell or Wi-Fi access point node on the existing street furniture such as street lamps, traffic lights and other structures for signage or shelter. The node should ideally be small (and therefore unobtrusive), light and consume little power so that it can be easily integrated. Again, these factors are characteristics of SiBEAM’s electronic beam-steering technology.

Our technology employs phased array antennas, which replace a single antenna with multiple small antennas, which can then be electronically steered by adjusting the relative phase of the transmitted and received signals. For the same gain, a large dish measuring 20-30 cm (8” – 12”) is replaced by a smaller printed circuit array measuring as little as 7.5 cm x 5 cm (3” x 2”), reducing size and weight. Our use of advanced semiconductor technology also reduces power requirements, allowing for the adoption of smaller enclosures. What was once a bulky, standalone piece of equipment is now a diminutive component that can be integrated into an LTE small cell or Wi-Fi access point.

To illustrate this, we have built a physical mock-up of a metro Wi-Fi access point that includes 60 GHz wireless backhaul. You can see it in the accompanying picture. A complete solution, comprised of a network processor, Wi-Fi module, 60 GHz baseband and phased array RF transceiver, can be integrated into an enclosure measuring less than 20 cm x 15 cm x 5 cm (8” x 6” x 2”). If you drive around any city and look at the installed equipment (and if you work in this field, I know you do!), it becomes clear that through integration we have achieved a solution that is visually compatible with the urban streetscape. Through the use of our wireless backhaul technology, the urban planner’s concern about the environmental impact of small cell nodes and metro Wi-Fi access points is now completely satisfied.

This gigabit capacity wireless backhaul solution, along with our other wireless technology solutions, is just another step towards accelerating all aspects of your digital life and enabling gigabit wireless everywhere.

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